The MVS unit in Kansas City has closed its doors. On May 9, 2020, alumni, local leaders, and church members gathered virtually to share in the celebration of the Kansas City unit's history.
Gatherings have been canceled all around the world, but a global pandemic wasn't going to stop alumni, local leaders, and supporters across the country from celebrating the Kansas City Mennonite Voluntary Service (MVS) unit.
The unit's final term ended in November 2019. Jesse Graber, current chair of the Kansas City MVS support committee, said that the committee began the indispensable work of planning a celebration that would cap off the 43-year history of the MVS unit. But due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the celebration was forced to move to the digital gathering space of Zoom.
Smiling faces greeted each other from nearly 45 Zoom windows and shared their feelings, stories and memories of time spent working with or participating in the MVS house in Kansas City. The unit moved houses a few times through the years, but no matter which house participants lived in, they always shared meaningful and zany memories: eating squirrel without knowing it, memorable bulletin board quotes, sliding across the kitchen on chairs, singalongs, group meals, and forging community together.
To celebrate all the cherished memories, Graber put together a commemorative video, which you can watch above. The video stars two of the most recent Kansas City MVS participants, Hannah Hochstetler and Sarah Tomas Morgan touring the house, as well as an interview with some of the founding members of the unit's support committee, Dorothy Nickel Friesen and Richard Friesen.
"[The MVS unit] would have only happened with community and church support," said Dorothy Friesen in the video.
"The number of lives and organizations, including churches, all over the world that [the Kansas City MVS unit] has impacted is astounding," said Ruth Harder, pastor at Rainbow Mennonite Church. Rainbow Mennonite served as the supporting congregation of the unit through the years. "It's a web of connection that we pray will continue to weave God's goodness in the world."
"My favorite part of working with the MVS unit was simply getting to know these amazing young people from all parts of the country and all over the world," Graber said. "[Watching and helping] them learn to navigate in new environments and learn what their strengths are and what they love to do — it's hard. And it didn't always work. But that can be valuable, too, especially surrounded by a community that supports you."
"I know the decision to close the unit was a difficult one," said Marisa Smucker, director of MVS. "We also know there is a season for everything and for that reason we celebrate a job well done and thank [the extended Rainbow Mennonite community] for 43 years of partnership with MVS!"